Gail Clifton, Sarasota Manatee Assn. for Riding Therapy (SMART)

Gail Clifton—who has worn multiple hats at the Sarasota Manatee Association for Riding Therapy (SMART), including 11 years as its volunteer Executive Director—discusses SMART’s history and mission. Magic 7She also tells stories about the organization’s early triumphs, when its focus was serving disabled children, and explains how the SMART program widened out 9e586757-96e3-4ce6-af86-6a753c2593cdto additionally welcome military veterans (and their families) contending with PTSD. Clifton sketches some scenes of the work that happens with the veterans, which doesn’t involve riding, but rather interacting with the horse(s). She also recounts some of her own 18-year history at SMART, including acknowledging that her 11-year stint as the organization’s unpaid MagicExecutive Director extended well beyond what she had envisioned. Clifton spends more than a little time addressing Magic, the SMART horse who, it’s safe to say, projects a singular presence, in that he’s a blind horse who uses echo-location to get womens_club_11around. Magic, Clifton points out, is an integral part of of their work with the veterans, with the children—related to the affliction that caused his blindness, the horse‘s eyes were removed…a sort of virtue for the autistic kids, who tend to eschew eye contact—and the Horse Sense Literacy Program. Clifton concludes the conversation with some comments about the array of volunteer opportunities at SMART. (

ccsu_jol_04_0406_03ALSO: I aired a brief conversation I had recorded with Joe Zimmerman, a wonderfully bright and refreshing comedian, with lots of great animal material—and as such, has become perhaps the most played comedian on “Talking Animals” in recent months. We discussed his start in stand-up, what inspired his first animal bit, what traits about animals amuse him and prompt him to write pieces about them, including extended bits about snakes, crows (“Crow Zimmerman”!), and more. This was was pegged to Zimmerman’s local engagement at Side Splitters in Tampa. (

COMEDY CORNER: Joe Zimmerman’s “Pet Snakes” (part one) (

MUSIC: Rebekah Pulley’s “Talking Animals Theme,” instrumentals

 NAME THAT ANIMAL TUNE: Paul Shaffer’s “Late Night” [Bye Dave!]


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About the author
Duncan Strauss is the producer-host of “Talking Animals,” which he launched at KUCI in California in 2003, combining his passions for animals, radio, journalism, music and comedy. The show has aired since late 2005 on Tampa’s WMNF. Strauss lives in Jupiter Farms, FL with his family, including four cats, two horses and one dog. He spends each day talking to those animals, and maintains they talk right back to him, an as yet unverified claim.

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